Gun Review: Magnum Research IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50AE

If you’re looking to snag a Desert Eagle for your firearms collection, there are a couple of things you need to know. You’re going to need a bigger handgun safe; the Desert Eagle isn’t just a large pistol, it’s a hand howitzer. If you want to shoot your new cannon on a regular basis you’ll need a trust fund or a second job. Quality 50AE ammo costs from $1.50 to $2.50 a shot, which is cheap for old bourbon but pricy for ammo. Last but not least, if you haven’t personally shot a Desert Eagle, throw out everything you’ve heard about the gun. Read this first . . .

Deagles were originally made in Israel by Israel Weapon Industries, part of Israel Military Industries, Ltd., the same people who brought the Galil and the Uzi into the world. Magnum Research, the U.S. patent holder, subsequently transferred manufacture to the United States. A few years later, production of the Desert Eagle was returned to Israel. IMI then spun off IWI. Finally, Kahr Arms acquired Magnum Research in the middle of 2010. Thus, the poor Desert Eagle has gone through more hands than the Kardashians.

My test subject is an Israeli-made pistol manufactured by IWI, which is as close to an original Mark XIX as it gets.

How Does It Operate?
The Deagle is not recoil-operated like the locked breach and blowback designs that pistol shooters know and love. The Desert Eagle is gas operated, like grandpappy Mikhail’s AK-47. Being gas operated, the pistol’s barrel can be fixed in position like a rifle barrel. The barrel’s also different on the inside. It lacks lands and grooves, boasting instead six-rib polygonal rifling like medium-bore Glock pistols.

There’s a small gas valve under the barrel. Upon firing, the valve diverts propellant gasses to a piston that drives the slide back. As the slide begins its rearward travel, the rotating bolt unlocks from the barrel and moves with the slide. Toward the end of slide travel, the hammer gets cocked.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the spent brass is ejected, a new round the size of a cocktail weenie is crammed into the chamber and the twin recoil springs ram the slide forward. The bolt rotates until its three heavy lugs reengage the barrel and lock into position, and the gun is ready once again to rock and roll.

Okay, it sounds like the Desert Eagle is some kind of Frankengun cobbled together by Eugene Stoner and Mikhail Kalashnikov one night after they sucked down way too many Jell-O shots. Realistically, though, the intricate inner workings of any traditional short-recoil pistol are just as mysterious and spooky, and altogether ooky. Therefore, if any additional complexity of the Desert Eagle yields significant advantages, it’s all good. So does it?

In theory, yes.

Polygonal rifling is thought by some to create a tighter seal than lands and grooves. By some accounts, it reduces the potential for barrel fouling. Polygonal rifling has been around since the dawn of rifled firearms, so it’s not exactly unproven technology. Besides, if Gaston Glock chose polygonal rifling for America’s gun, how can we mere mortals object to the same for Israel’s gun?

The fixed barrel is also a plus. If fixed barrels are good enough for rifles and revolvers, there no reason why they can’t be good enough for pistols. A barrel that stays on the same plane as the frame at all times, instead of one that cams upward with every shot, should improve accuracy. The setup is very sturdy, too; a requirement for a pistol firing heavy magnum loads. Check off another potential plus or two for the Deagle.

Redirecting the propellant gasses into the gas valve probably reduces recoil, at least by a little. The effect is similar to that of a small muzzle break, except that the gas valve technology incorporated into the Desert Eagle does nothing to directly counter muzzle rise. Still, a little improvement is better than none.

Finally, the rotating, triple-lugged bolt offers dual advantages in safety and durability, especially when firing the powerful .50AE round. Anyway, those are the theories.

In contrast to the theories, there are the rumors. According to every blogger’s best friend (“reliable sources”) the Desert Eagle is a piece of junk. Most of the rumors center around cycling issues. Purportedly, quality went into the crapper about the time that production was switched stateside from the land of Canaan. Thereafter, the Desert Eagle rapidly developed a reputation as an unreliable problem pistol that jammed more than a Dixieland jazz quartet.

But rumors need to be taken with a whole Jimmy Buffet shaker of salt, especially when it comes to firearms. Let’s face it, the gun culture community is a lot like a suburban middle school. Information rolls off the desks like Tic-Tacs, disappearing into cracks and corners never to be seen again, while rumors travel fast and last forever. Which doesn’t account for the irrefutable fact that while many rumors are utterly false, others are absolutely true.

To put theory and rumors to the test, I headed off to the range carrying the Desert Eagle and several boxes of ammo that collectively cost about as much as a new Smith & Wesson J-frame revolver.

Handling and Shooting the Desert Eagle

The .50AE pistol is a hefty 4.5 pounds, about as much as two fully loaded 1911s plus a six-inch Subway sandwich. The big bazooka is 10.75” long from stem to stern and 6.25” high. The bore axis is a good 1.5” above the bottom of the long beavertail and it’s very muzzle-heavy. To accommodate such big rounds, the handle needs to be extremely thick. Achieving a good grip is a bit of a “challenge.”

With this much mass and such epic proportions, you don’t handle this gun; you wrangle it. And that’s before the shooting starts. As for portability, I personally wouldn’t want to tuck this monstrosity into my Thunderwear for a trip to the Piggly-Wiggly but your chafing may vary. [ED: Louisville Leathers is developing a Desert Eagle holster for Ralph's dining and dancing pleasure. Stay tuned.]

Touring the landscape of the pistol, I immediately loved the patridge sights. Employing the old saw of “equal height, equal light,” I found it easy to put these sights right on target while dry-firing. Overall fit and finish seemed perfect, with the entire gun feeling like one solid piece. Field stripping and reassembly was a no-tool breeze.

The ambidextrous safety was very stiff and required a firm push of the thumb to move up to the fire position or down to the safe position. The hammer cocked and de-cocked more easily than I expected. Racking the slide was tough, requiring a tight grip and a 2.75” long pull against the powerful gang of recoil springs. The magazine release button likewise required a decisive push before it would give up its chokehold on the mag.

While working with spring-loaded hand grips would be a cheaper way to develop forearm strength, racking the slide and working the controls of the Deagle will likewise turn the average Joe into Popeye with none of that messy spinach.

Loading up the magazine was easy. The big cartridges provided plenty of leverage, and the magazine spring wasn’t fighting me like the controls had done. Magazine insertion required a degree of force. Once inserted, it seemed like the magazine fit a bit loosely in the well, but that’s the way it’s supposed to fit. According to the manual, any attempt to stifle that little bit of mag movement would result in a jam. When the manual says, “don’t do that,” then I don’t do that.

My first shot was a “ranging shot” to get the feel of the pistol and locate its true point of impact relative to point of aim. I used my preferred Weaver stance with my dominant arm fully bent at the elbow. The reason I bend the elbow is to shorten the distance between the front sight and my ancient eyes. That has the unfortunate effect of also shortening the distance between the recoiling mass of metal and my coconut. With .45s, .44 magnums or anything less, the recoiling handgun’s proximity to my noggin is a non-issue. Not so with .50 magnums. Recoil with this pistol is prodigious.

Here’s a viddy of Eddie shooting the Deagle. He’s a very powerful guy; watch the pistol jump around in his hand like an angry snake as his fires a miniscule group. I was subsequently to best that group by placing five shots touching in the same little outline.

Back to my initial firing experience. My first shot was on target, but the pistol overwhelmed my stance. The recoil forced my arm to pivot at the elbow, like a football referee signaling a first down. That pushed the pistol unreasonably close to my face, which is an organ that I prefer to leave just the way it is.

I found that the big sights were easy to see, even at full arm’s length, so I didn’t need to shorten up the focal distance between the front sight and my eyes. The long sight radius of 8.65” also made for accurate sighting. My second shot was fired from a Chapman-style stance with the dominant arm straight out and the elbow almost locked. It’s not my normal style, but it worked very well, reducing muzzle rise and improving my follow-through.

I normally prefer to test self-defense handguns at self-defense distances, meaning five to seven yards. It was quickly apparent that testing the Desert Eagle at such a distance was the equivalent of testing a sniper rifle at snowball distance. I loaded four, moved the target out to fifteen yards and proceeded to drill the bullseye, effortlessly.

Why not 25 yards? Because indoor range lighting is no friend of mine, that’s why. But it is my firm opinion that offhand shots at 25 yards and far, far beyond would be child’s play with this pistol at an outdoor range bathed in even moderate sunlight.

I shot a couple of boxes of ammo with no jams or any other stoppages whatsoever. Six or seven other people, selected at random from the crowd at the range, also fired the pistol. The shooters ranged from trainers like Eddie to experienced gunsels to near-noobs. The purpose of sharing the pistol with others was to make the pistol jam. But voila, there were no failures, period. I was beginning to think that the whole jam-o-matic business was so much bushwah.

But hosanna, one of the range instructors did have two jams while firing a magazine-full. It did not appear that he was limp-wristing, but he was shooting from a Weaver stance and permitting the pistol to roll up with each shot. Well, Deagle don’t like roll-ups, and it got to jamming right away to show its distaste for the shooter’s style. That shooter never did manage to dial-in his presentation, but subsequent shots by other operators went off without a hitch.

We went through a lot of expensive ammo trying to get this pistol to sh!t the bed. For all our efforts, all we got were those two lousy jams. So this is what can be said about this particular specimen, if not all its siblings out there: the pistol will do its job if the shooter does his or her job. However, this gun doesn’t make it easy for the shooter to do his or her job. Far from it. Any defects in stance or grip will be penalized. That’s not a good thing.

A great pistol should assist the shooter by being accurate, safe and easy to shoot well. The Desert Eagle is dead-nuts accurate shot offhand, and probably scary accurate if shot from sandbags, vise or rest. Most models are drop-safe, so the gun is just as all-around safe as other single action autoloaders.  But when it comes to helping the shooter to shoot well, the Deagle doesn’t give an inch. Therefore, it’s not a great pistol.

Conclusion

The Desert Eagle is a powerful.50 caliber pistol that is capable of producing muzzle velocities exceeding 1900 fps and muzzle energy of 2800 ft-lbs. To put those numbers in perspective, .50AE bullets can travel twice as fast as.45s and hit with the force of a .308 Winchester.

The Desert Eagle is also challenging to shoot. Marksmen who master it will be rewarded with a fun experience. Those who don’t master it will find that it jams. When it comes to jams I prefer Smucker’s over pistols, but that’s just me.

I’m not really sure why anyone would want a Desert Eagle. Punching holes in engine blocks comes to mind, but how often would someone really need to do that? Maybe once or twice a month, tops. Target practice? Ixnay. Not at two bucks a round. Self defense? Any handgun from .38Spl to .45 caliber would be a far better choice. Surviving the zombie apocalypse? A .22 would do just as well. Taking out Neo? Agent Smith had his Deagle. Neo had guns. Lots of guns. Neo won.

No, I have to say that the Desert Eagle is simply the most useless gun ever made. Paradoxically, it’s also, maybe, the most fun gun around, at least in .50AE. If I was rating the Desert Eagle’s fun factor using TTAG’s star system, the gun would get more stars than Hollywood.

So what makes the Desert Eagle a not-so-obscure object of desire? Maybe it’s the fun, maybe the glamour, or maybe it’s the excitement of hanging out with a movie star. It might be the power. While it’s not the biggest hitter out there, the fifty is definitely near the top.

Frankly, I don’t really know what it is about the Desert Eagle that makes it so intriguing, but I’m jonesing to shoot this one some more. I’m jonesing bad.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Desert Eagle Mark XIX
Caliber: .50AE
Magazine capacity: 7 rounds
Materials: Steel
Weight empty: 72.4 ounces
Barrel Length: 6.0″
Overall length: 10.75″
Sights: Dovetailed front and rear “combat-style,” windage adjustable
Action: Hammer fired, single action
Finish: Matte black
Price: around $1500

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Style * * * * *
Love the look or hate the look, the Desert Eagle’s been photographed more often than Paris Hilton and featured in more movies than Ron Jeremy. It’s an icon. I mean the gun. Not Ron Jeremy.

Ergonomics (carry) *
On a scale of zero to five, with five being an Airlight and zero being a flaming porcupine, the Desert Eagle is a one. On a scale where anything short of a flaming porcupine is a zero, the Desert Eagle is a zero.

Ergonomics (firing) * * *
Try a little experiment. Take all the guns out of your gun safe. Now hold the safe straight out at shoulder level with one arm. Comfy? If it is, then you’ll like hefting the Deagle. As heavy as the gun may be, the single-action trigger is light and precise. The trigger pull is smooth, with a short, nice ‘n’ easy take up. Reset is faster than most DA pistols in lesser chamberings, which is irrelevant since accurate follow-up shots will be slower than erosion. The sights are very good and the long sight radius makes for accuracy. One-handed shooting is something best reserved for a scene in Jackass 4.0.

Reliability * * *
It’s not a jam machine, but it can jam. A grip that would be firm enough for any other pistol might be too limp for the Desert Eagle. Oddly enough, habitual snubby shooters who have practiced a “convulsive grip” (trying to crush the handle into powder) will have no limp-wristing jams with this pistol. Keeping the gas valve clean is imperative to assure proper functioning. Field stripping is so easy even a cave man can do it, so there’s no excuse for not cleaning this big noisemaker. Long term durability is difficult to assess based on just a few range sessions, but any gun this heavily built should have a longer half-life than Uranium-234.

Customize This * * *
If the gun isn’t heavy enough for you just the way it is, there’s that long rail atop the barrel where one might mount a light, scope, a set of toy trains or an electric hoist. The .50AE Desert Eagle is also convertible for shooting .44Mag and .357Mag cartridges simply by purchasing expensive drop-in replacement gear that requires no gunsmithing to install. Why anyone would want to fire mere .357s from a gun this heavy and unwieldy is beyond me.

OVERALL RATING * * *
Shooting a Desert Eagle is like taking a honeymoon in Las Vegas. There’s no justification for it, except for having a raucous good time and burning through all those cash wedding gifts when your spouse isn’t looking.

114 Responses to Gun Review: Magnum Research IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50AE

  1. avatarJohn says:

    Why would you want the Desert Eagle?

    So you can tell your friends that you shot a Desert Eagle!

    • avatarAnonymous says:

      Man, if this kicks that much then I’ll grab a .357 or .44 or just stick with airsoft and smaller calibers

    • avatarjohn says:

      I own a .50 ae!!! in my eyes why do we buy guns to shoot have fun in a safe manner it’s a fun gun!!! my glock,1911,s&wm&p,XD all jam!! it’s the power of guns that makes us do this so have fun with this hand cannon i do. If you can’t shoot more.22′s get a firm wrist and don’t be sooo wimpy!!!!!

      • avatarJosh in GA says:

        “my glock,1911,s&wm&p,XD all jam!!” Perhaps you should spend more time with maintenance? Or maybe you should take your own advice and maintain a firmer wrist when firing?

        • avatarjohn says:

          Yes you are right! I shoot a lot! all reloads some powders are dirty. After 500 rounds guns get dirty. 2 or 3 jams when you are running to the next target can play a role in that to.(combat match) I still love my 1911!!

      • avatarDoug H. says:

        Josh I would have to agree with you about the maintenance issue John is having. If any gun is jamming, then in my opinion, you are not cleaning your weapon properly. After every time you shoot, you should clean the weapon and I do not mean lube the slide and actions, I mean break the gun down and properly clean it and it will never fail you.

  2. Vegas isn’t any fun at all unless fun for you is getting soaringly drunk and burning through wads of cash. Trust me. This place is terrible.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Nick, I absolutely love Las Vegas and I’ve been going there for vacations for over 40 years. I’ll be at the Shot Show next year and I’ll take you and the crew on a tour of the real LV. You’ll love it.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      With the exception of Wild West Guns and the Cirque Du Soleil show my wife and I saw, everything I saw in Las Vegas was either sordid, overpriced, mediocre or all three.

    • avatarNR says:

      Judging by this comment and Nick’s known booth babe stalking prowess, I’m guessing his idea is of a good time (when he’s not shooting) involves reading the classics, eating organic foods, and dating chaste young women he meets at church. He’s an example to us all.

    • avatarMick says:

      A great place to visit. A lousy place to live.

  3. avatarTodd Price says:

    Excellent review Ralph, as always!

  4. avatarGS650G says:

    I’ve shot the .44 version and it’s tolerable. I’d even go so far to say it’s a practical choice since the ammo is cheaper and it’s possible to control the gun. I’ve also tried a .41 Mag version but that ammo is more expensive.

  5. avatarAharon says:

    When the electricity is gone and you need to mash up the falafel mix there is no better masher than this gun.

  6. avatarMr. Lion says:

    I’ve never once seen a DE .50 bounce around as much in the hands of people who are experienced marksmen. One needs to grab that sucker by the scruff, not shake hands with it and ask what it’d like for dinner.

    I don’t particularly like the pistol, but I’ve never had any problem sending seven down range with reasonable accuracy and follow-up speed similar to a 1911.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Here’s what I think happened. As a snubby shooter, I use a “convusive grip” all the time (even when I don’t need to), so I had no probs with the Deagle. Noobs and even some of the marksmen were scared sh!tless of this pistol, so they grabbed onto it like they were holding a tiger by the nose. No probs there, either. A couple of the local tops shots underestimated this gun, and as a result it ended up thrashing about like an angry weasel.

  7. avatarRobinGoodfellow says:

    I had the opportunity to fire one of these in .44 Magnum caliber. My main complaint is that its large grip was difficult for me to get my hand around–but the recoil was manageable. I can only imagine the .50 AE would be harder to grip.

    But it is definitely a cool pistol!

    • avatarRalph says:

      the .50 AE would be harder to grip.

      If you can palm a wet basketball, then gripping this handle will present no problems. With my medium-size hands, I found it a bit like trying to wrap my mitt around a brick.

  8. avatarKevin says:

    The only practical purpose that someone carries a gun like that on a daily basis is to shoot really dangerous critters. Like the guy in Anchorage who killed a grizzly that attacked him with a .454 casull. http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2009/08/31/man-kills-charging-bear-with-454-casull/

    I’ve only fired a DE once, in AE50. And I also found it was crazy accurate.

  9. avatarCarlosT says:

    The Desert Eagle holds no fascination for me. The sheer impracticality of the thing is just a huge turnoff. Add to that the ammo cost factor and the whole proposition just fails.

  10. avatarChris says:

    I wonder if there would be any advantage to adapting the gas operated rotary bolt system to a smaller handgun in a more sensible cartridge.

    What if we took the DE concept, and scaled it down in a 10mm or .357 magnum pistol, in keeping with it’s Auto-mag heritage. The Jericho 941 or “Baby Eagle” is just a CZ75 clone.

    It seem like this is an extraordinarily accurate system. With a more practical approach and some refinement, it might have real potential as an alternative to the tilt-barrel and direct blow-back systems.

    • avatarRalph says:

      You have enunciated a very thought-provoking proposition. The Desert Eagle system was devised for the purpose of handling magnum loads, and is available chambered for the .357. But that gun is very overbuilt and not much lighter than the .50AE version.

      Assuming that lighter rounds would still generate enough exhaust gas power to cycle the action by way of the piston, you might be on to something.

  11. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The “jam-o-matic” reputation of the DE was earned because the early ones were fed with .44 Mag rounds loaded for revolvers. As we all know, revolvers don’t really care much about such issues as “powder fouling.”

    A gas-operated semi-auto, however, does. In the early 90′s, it was quite common to not be able to get through two boxes (50 rounds each) of .44 Mag factory ammo in a DE. The gas system would be fouled pretty well after about 75 rounds of Remington or Winchester ammo.

    If you fed the early DE’s .44 Mag ammo that was hand-loaded with cleaner burning powders, the “jam-o-matic” issues disappeared.

    • avatarGS650G says:

      A big problem with the DE was the use of lead bullets. They must be copper jacketed or the gas system will clog. I put quite a few “pistol” loads through a DE .44 and not a single problem.

  12. avatarTom says:

    If a pistol will not get the job done in .45 ACP, I think I might switch to a long gun.

  13. avatarmatt says:

    “No, I have to say that the Desert Eagle is simply the most useless gun ever made.”
    I would have to say the Gwinn Firearms Bushmaster Pistol, a bullpup AR-18 pistol that is designed to be shot like a gangsta. There is a full auto one on gunbroker usually.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSrPDrx5Vkc

  14. avatarBrice says:

    My friend bought a .357 version to replace the revolver he gave his son. I agree that it’s not a very practical pistol. 7 in the mag for a gun larger than some baseball bats? Yeah, that is a little silly. We had three problems with this pistol.
    1. Failure to go into battery when using the slide release lever. A rack would put in into battery as long as it was clean. After 2k rounds this is still a problem.
    2. The safety was so hard to move and it such an awkward position that I couldn’t do it with my firing had. I’ll blame small hands for this one.
    3. If you were target shooting with good follow through and a slow trigger let off, the trigger would not reset. Polishing the trigger bars solved this problem.

    Ammo had to be HOT. Max loads were required for proper cycling. Shooting was a chore. A box of ammo made my hands so tired that I simply couldn’t control the gun.

    Even with all that, if somebody gave me one, I’d keep it. :)

  15. avatar07duallydog says:

    I bought a used S&W .500 at the gun show that came thru this weekend . It really is in excellent condition . I have never owned anything larger than a .44 mag , much less shot anything larger in a handgun . I bought the gun cause I just had to add it to my collection . It was a blast to shoot , and I love it. Ralph ,this article came at the right time because I also considered the deagle this weekend , but I would have had to coughed up an additional $800. It was new not used. Have you ever shot a .500 , and how does it compare to the deagle . Thanks for
    the article . Very entertaining and informative, it helped me make up my mind on buying a deagle .I gotta have it .

    • avatarChaz says:

      From the bullet weights and muzzle velocities for these cartridges as listed in Wikipedia, calculating their power factors, the 50AE comes in at 55% of the 500 S&W.

      In practice… ?

    • avatarRalph says:

      I have shot a couple of S&W 500s, courtesy of our brother-in-arms JOE MATAFOME. They are awesome revolvers. Recoil is greater than the .50AE, so is the power, but the accuracy was a bit less.

      I shot Joe’s hand cannons with bullets weights up to 700 grains. The big tyrannosaurus round was unbelieveable.

      Enjoy the revolver. I did!

  16. avatarRyan Finn says:

    Great review Ralph (I would expect nothing less). I’m actually really surprised by how accurate this beast was.

    • avatarRalph says:

      I’m actually really surprised by how accurate this beast was.

      Ryan, I was very surprised by the accuracy. In slow aimed fire mode, the Israeli bazooka is one of the more accurate big bore handguns that I’ve shot. And did I mention that it’s a hoot to shoot?

  17. avatarRKBA says:

    First: What a fantastic review!

    I am a male of average height and smaller than average hands. I own two of these fine specimens, and very much enjoy shooting them from time to time.

    I found the weapon easier to hold securely after installing rubber Hogue grips.

    Why would anyone want one of these? Because they are just plain fun to shoot! And even MORE FUN to watch other people shoot, especially for the first time.

    Dirty Harry’s “Most Powerful Handgun In The World” .44 Magnum ain’t got jack on these.

    As some have stated, this unit requires a very firm, locked arm grip. Do Not limp wrist this beast!

    I never have had a single failure with either of my DE 50AE.

    If you have either the .50AE or .44 Magnum DE, you can swap the unit to the other caliber as quickly as you can change the barrel and magazine… so about thirty seconds. I do not yet have any in .44 Magnum, but likely will in the future. They also offer 10″ Barrels in each caliber, for hunting.

    Oh, and by the way, for those who do not know, the “AE” in .50AE stands for “Action Express”. Very fitting for this pistol.

    Party On!

  18. avatarSean Guerin says:

    I admit, I was surprised to see a review of this “POS” gun on TTAG, but it really cleared up everything bad I thought about the DE. I do love the looks of it and am intrigued by it’s unique blowback system. If I was going to get one, it would probably be in the 357. That said, I would want to compare the 357 to the 44 magnum version. Terrific review!

  19. avatarRichard says:

    I find shooting Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50AE more fun than shooting 500 SmithWession revolver. Easyer get repeat shot off in Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50AE where you want compare get repeat shot off with with Smith Wession 500 revolver. Only thing that sucks with Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50AE pain in butt keep clean becuase gun need be kept very clean work right becuase gets dirtyer than other pistols becuase of way works. How ever kind like cars chevy ford can take where want go but ferrari porsche what want be seen drivening get where want go same Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50AE.

    • avatarRalph says:

      I find shooting Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50AE more fun than shooting 500 SmithWession revolver.

      Me too, Richard, but they’re both a lot of fun to shoot.

  20. avatarRopingdown says:

    Interesting review. If the Deagle in function was as smooth as the edited version of these reviews, I’d probably buy one. Word-of-mouth about the DE was terrible for years, and as you observed in different words, “who would stop the vent of hearing when loud rumor speaks?” Well, clearly not gun guys, me included. The clarity and detail of this review changed my opinion of the thing. Now I don’t want one because it’s too much like a high-end Vegas call girl, appealing only to my weaknesses and costing a mint every time I pick it up.

  21. avatarAccur81 says:

    Check your numbers.

    The 460 Smith and Wesson and 500 Smith and Wesson can both generate 2800 plus ft-lbs of energy from 8 3/8″ (or more) barrel lengths and Buffalo Bore Ammo. I own the 460 – and its great fun to shoot – but the Buffalo Bore is tough on my wrists and wallet – it’ll out muscle the 50 with a 360 grain bullet at about 1900 fps.

    The 50 AE generates about 1400-1600 ft lbs with a 6″ barrel, and roughly 1700-1800 ft lbs and change with the 10″ barrel.

    Certainly the 50 AE is impractical for many applications, but it isn’t nearly the biggest or most powerful handgun out there.

    • avatarRalph says:

      I shot Speer 300 grain Gold Dots, which produce 1900 fps at the muzzle and 1600 ft-lb of energy. .45 ACP are anemic in comparison. And yes, as I noted, “[w]hile it’s not the biggest hitter out there, the fifty is definitely near the top.”

      • avatarRKBA says:

        Ralph says:

        “And yes, as I noted, while it’s not the biggest hitter out there, the fifty is definitely near the top.”

        Harry Callahan said:

        “I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .50 Action Express, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

        Well, sort of….

        ;-)

      • avatarAccur81 says:

        A 300 grain round at 1900 fps would produce just over 2400 ft-lbs of energy. Your probably pushing that pill around 1550 fps, unless you’ve got a really long barrel…

  22. avatarNR says:

    I died laughing when I got to the flaming porcupine.

    It made me realize that cc is always a trade-off between firepower and comfortable carry. ‘Cause really, if I ever need to defend my life, a flaming porcupine is really the weapon I want to have on hand.

  23. avatarDerek says:

    I’ve been waiting to read this since I read the Desert Eagle IWB Holster piece. Ralph, you def didn’t dissapoint. I love your style and humor. You have got to write more.

    Btw, is it just me or does it look like Ralphs hand is a mile and a half away in the second pic?

  24. avatarTim says:

    This brings back memories…. The gun I wish I never sold! I have one more incredibly helpful addition to the “limp wristing” debate! Quite a while ago (3-4 years or so) I was at my local indoor range with several of my buddies doing the monthly “create homer buckets full of empties so my thousands of dollars in turret presses can be put to good use again” shoot-o-ramma. It also just so happened that my local indoor range/gunstore had a used Deagle in .50 AE on the shelf. So I bought it, and immediately headed to the isles with it with the two boxes of Speer gold dot 300gn that came with it. But I had a secret weapon with me. One of my good friends with us was a professional steady cam operator. He just happened to have his steady cam out in the car, so of course we had to film it! And we also filmed it in slow motion! After dumping 7 rounds, my 130 pound frame was done for the day, so everyone else got their chance to play. During one of my fellow shooter friends attempts to create an empty casing, he pulled the Smith and Wesson model 29 limp wrist roll up. And we caught on slow motion film the Deagle “grabbing it’s own spent casing right out of the air”, and stove piping it. The casing left the ejector and bolt, made 1-1/2 flips in the air, and was grabbed out of the air at hat brim level by the slide and bolt going back forward. But here’s the rel fun part. We filmed the same thing happening 4 out of his 7 rounds! So don’t limp wrist a Deagle. It’ll get mad and grab it’s own empties out of the air for you to show it’s dissatisfaction with your stance and lack of arm strength!

    • avatarRKBA says:

      MUST.

      SEE.

      VIDEO.

      Please post link….

      ;-)

      • avatarTim says:

        I’ll do what I can to dig up the old reels. Unfortunately we didn’t get it on digital… (else I’d have it on Mr. Lappy already.). If I can digitally configure the film, ohh trust me, I’ll post her up!

        (disadvantage of high quality commercial grade film cameras)

        • avatarRKBA says:

          That would be fantastic! Thank you for trying :)

        • avatarEsin says:

          The term ‘prohibitively evpsneixe’ doesn’t always apply to you like it does to the rest of us. This gun is, what, 3-4 times the cost of a standard AR?

  25. avatarUncle Lar says:

    Oldest child asked me to work up handloads for a friend’s Deagle exactly because of the commercial ammo cost issue. Learned the following in the process:
    The gun is very sensitive to OAL. You need a stubby bullet seated deep.
    Use max loads of slow powders like Acc #9 or H-110 and magnum primers. Anything less will ensure failures to feed.
    Empty .50 AE cases are scarcer than hen’s teeth. Save your brass!
    Wound up with a 300 gr Rainier copper plated HP at near max load. Figure right about 1300 fps. Discounting the cost of brass since I was using the owner’s empties the reloads set me back about $.40 each. Still not a plinker, but much better than store bought. And always since YMMV work your own loads up carefully paying attention to all the usual signs of over pressure.

  26. avatarAmarante says:

    “$1.50 to $2.50 a shot”

    That is the price of cheap handloaded .380 ACP ammo in Brazil.

  27. avatarDE fan says:

    I’ve owned my DE for about 20 yrs now and can honestly say… Yes, it will hold up to the test of time. I have AT LEAST fired 10,000 +/- rounds through it. In the beginning I used factory ammo and got about 2 ftf’s per mag, after I got the set of dies for 50ae that number went down to zero, and my wallet greatly appreciates them too, but the credit card company doesn’t. About 75-80 cents per round. As for accuracy… 100 yds – 6″ circle all day.

    I was at the range one day and as I walked up to the counter there was a couple shooting next to where I was going to shoot. The girl looked at me and said “you might want to move down one station he’s (the guy she was with) shooting a .357 magnum… a MAN’S gun” I just smiled, then turned my back and snuck out my DE, loaded the mag, turned to the target, dropped the slide and fired. They both jumped out of there skin. I then opened my handgun case again pulled out a .357 and handed it to my wife and with a tad bit of sarcasm said to them “yeah, the .357 is a nice gun… my wife shoots one” Then they both just left. Moral to the story -DE is an awesome gun to shoot!!!

    • avatarDonM says:

      I know how ya feel. I was shooting my .45 ACP clip loaded revolver while the local rent-a-cops were shooting their qualification with .38 Specials.

      They felt darned inadequate. And moon clips speed the reloading quite a bit.

  28. avatarMatt says:

    Is there any history about why the gun was made? Was it supposed to be a vehicle crew weapon or a backup main gun on the Isralei Merkava?

  29. avatarClark Magnuson says:

    Informative and well written.

  30. avatarAku Nissim says:

    Well, as you know, DE was not builded as a Self-Defense Pistol or Combat Pistol. DE is a kind of Hand Cannon, Sniper Pistol (especially if you used the 10″ barrel), a monstrous power pistol.
    If you compare it with “normal” handguns for the weight, size, recoil, etc. I just can say that DE is “different” one. And if you compare DE 50AE with SW 500 for the “power” of the blast, how about the “handling”, “recoil” and “accuracy”? Judge it after 5 rounds in the shooting range, look at “holes” group in target.

  31. avatarDick says:

    You have your energy wrong unless you are comparing the 50 at 10 feet and the 308 at 500 yards ……………………..the 50 has nowhere near the energy

  32. avatarDarth Mikey says:

    Loved the review, Ralph–hilarious and spot-on! I have an old Mark
    I Israeli-made .44–first gun I ever bought (that was an
    education). Still going strong after 25 years, mostly reliable with
    ammo it likes (and it likes hot). Added a .357 conversion which
    makes it feel like a 9mm. Always makes this odd magic on the range:
    for some reason (gas action? locked breech?) the blast is
    significantly bigger than the same-caliber revolver. Lights the
    place up like a flare and gets everybody running to see what just
    exploded. I keep having to show them I’m just using factory loads
    (even in .357). Then they notice how accurate it is. And the recoil
    is remarkably mild: my kids like shooting this gun better than most
    (they hate poly-framed pistols because of the recoil)–it’s mostly
    the sinus-clearing blast that’s intimidating. Practical: hell no.
    It’s an anvil with an expensive appetite. Fun: Oh yeah. It’s a
    hand-held roller-coaster.

  33. avatargordon kurtz says:

    i reeeeaaallllly like this gun

  34. avatarRich says:

    Here’s the real question (pertaining to buying a .50AE Deagle for self defence). Do you want to turn your assailant’s brain into soup, or blow his head off?

  35. avatarJohn Browning says:

    Big Bore My Ass

  36. avatarJohn Browning says:

    I carry a sig 229 .40
    I can hit a gong at 50 yards
    I shot a .50 once
    and was only accurate at 30 feet

  37. avatarTed says:

    I’ve had my DE 357 for years and love it, sure I also have a Ruger 44 mag and just got my hand on a DE 50ae and agree the DE’s are not the easyest handguns to handle. But agree with everyone on the fun factor. Cheaper then dirt has 50ae, 350gr jacketed for $26 a box or $1.30 each no worse then a rifle. I just put a red dot on the 50 to clear the sight and with a steady hand 50 yards is no problem. In my humble opinion the Eagles are no different then buying a Corvette when a Toyota will do.

    I really injoyed your report Ralph, you were right on target.

  38. avatarJoe C. says:

    Great review. My only question would be if anyone has any different experience with the US models? You said you used an Israeli model, but also said the rumors of problems were largely with the US made ones.

  39. avatarWill Johnson says:

    Because , “MINE IS MUCH BIGGER THAN YOURS”. SEE?

  40. avatarJim says:

    I laughed out loud so hard reading this review that I have no strength left for firing any gun, especially one that can kick my ass.
    Thanks for the humor!

  41. avatarAnthon says:

    1900fps? 2800 ft lbs? You must be talking about some other cartridge – perhaps a 45-70 BFR or S&W 460 Magnum. Every distributor I could name lists velocities for the .50AE between 1235 fps and 1669 fps and muzzle energy between 1185 ft lbs and 1847 ft lbs.

    Blount 300gr JHP, CCI 325gr SJHP, and IMI 300gr SJHP produced the highest velocities and energy values in 10″ barrels. 6″ Barrels, scarcely exceeded 1475 fps and 1450 ft lbs. These figures – 1450-1847 ft lbs are nowhere near a .308. Rather they are comparable to:
    a 7.62×39 AK 47, .22 Swift, and at the high end, a .22-250 or 6.5 Grendel.

    • avatarLars says:

      Try 2,000 feet per second and 2,000 feet per lb. I’ve handloaded 180 to 350 grain in .50DE that have near the 2,000/2,500 mark, and even the Speer 300 grain can do 1,600/1,600.
      The 2,800 foot per lb. is a bit extreme but there are .50 loads out there that do this. The reloaded ammo I got from a guy who works at Magnum out of the Twin Cities before I started reloading had 2,000/2,600 ballistics so no, Ralph is correct.
      Learn ballistic numbers.

  42. avatarcapt counts says:

    The author needs to look up the definition of “gunsel”. Embarrassing….

  43. avatarDanny Claiborne says:

    Ralph: I have read tons of articles on guns and gun reviews and your article on the Desert Eagle 50 AE is one of the most insightful and humorous I have about ever read. I accidentally found your review after I purchasing a Deagle 50 and I wanted to see what others were saying. I purchased the 50 AE for the sport of it. I will probably rarely shoot it, but look forward to the experience. You information is outstanding and, again, VERY humorous. I look forward to reading your other reviews. Thank you! Danny

  44. avatarRivet says:

    “On a scale of zero to five, with five being an Airlight and zero being a flaming porcupine, the Desert Eagle is a one.” <–LMAO!

    Seriously, nice write up. :)

  45. avatarmike says:

    rating: ***

    why: Because with a grip strength of 200lbs in both hands it only took me a day to get used to the feel, and can effectively use it with one hand. But I see it not as a carry weapon but as a recreational or hunting handgun its far too bulky and powerful to use it for personal Defense mainly because you need to think of what’s behind what you’re shooting at. And at 40$ for a box of 20, use it sparingly, one shot should be enough. You also need to be built for a handgun of this caliber.

  46. avatarCameron Travis says:

    I just purchased a new .50 Cal Desert Eagle ($1, 795) about a month ago and I must say that it is a very powerful firearm. I shot the 300 grain rounds (that ran $50 per box) and it jammed on me I think 3 times. I was told that it was becuase it was new and it had to be properly lubed up and that should solve the problem. Among the others that I have, I have a 9mm Desert Eagle and well, for one, it came with (2) clips, and a protective bag to prevent rust. The .50 Cal came with only (1) clip and no protective bag, so I have to oil it often. It is definitely a nice piece of HardWare, not something you just go out and buy for “status” (mainly because it is close to $2000 new), but it you are a gun enthusiast/weapons collector like me, this will be a top shelf choice for your collection. Have a Great Day!

  47. There’s no way Agent Smith shoots the Desert Eagle one handed accurately. It’s too heavy, I tried it.

  48. avatarKarl says:

    Honestly, I have to say between the review and the comments, this has been very informative and hilarious! I’m mainly considering buying a Deagle mainly for the fact it is the only hand gun I’ve picked up that actually fit in my hand. Even my cousins 1911 feels a tad bit small, and hearing of the ease of switching out for different ammunition makes me like it that much more.

  49. avatarbob says:

    so, have had my 50ae since the 90′s – one of the “collector” xix models.
    have had so much fun!!
    ergonomics are a direct link to reliable cycling. my son-in-law is at least a half foot shorter than me and grip becomes an issue. although i am only6’4″, i installed the aftermarket grip and can still get a full purchase on the pistol.it helps and if you’re a taller sort of fella – try it..
    used this with the speer 325s on feral hogs – even at 60-70 yards the effect was “impressive” and i have since gone DOWN to a 44 mag for that sort of game.
    ordered up some hawk 350s (just wish i could get a 400 gr bullet!) for my “dream” moose hunt – pricey to practice with. .
    while my first choice for a handgun if i had none – would be a 22, if you have a couple of other handguns – get one – and grin all day!!

    • avatarLars says:

      Height of the shooter means absolutely nothing with the DE .50 or a S&W .500. Absolutely nothing.

      As for 400 grain, how about a 500 grain? I reload these sometimes for my S&W .500. The 350 grain .50 AE will take care of anything that walks on two or four legs.

  50. avatarfotis salonikios says:

    magnum 44:safely but he will make damage. magnum 45:it’s still make damage.
    magnum 50:aah,now this is weapon. magnum 357:it will make enough damage.
    and magnum 500:god! you are not well,this thing will finish you.

  51. avatarfotis says:

    niiice

  52. avatarDaniela says:

    Very excited to try this! I’m a little worried by the sheer weight, but I think with practice it’ll get easier. Thanks for the great review, I think I’ll get an Israeli one :)

  53. avatarLars says:

    My two DE XIX .50s are the most accurate handguns I own. My S&W .500 is close but I just can’t shoot it as well as the DE.
    Either one can handle the .50 or they cannot. Shooting it well has nothing to do with brute strength, height or age. I’m a big short-medium guy and I mastered the .50 after 100 shots or so. I’ve seen bigger guys who can lift a car jam up and/or not hit the bulleye once. I’ve seen my aunt shoot mine very accurately with not a single jam. My brother has jam issues yet my dad who is a bit frail and old can go through a few mags without a single issue. There is no rhyme or reason for who can shoot the .50 well, it’s all about a mixture of things, a perfect storm if you will. IMO it’s about gripping the grip enough but not too much. Then your follow through then your stance. For me it just works well much like the S&W .500 does. With the DE I have the aftermarket rubber grips from Magnum and with the S&W .500 I have Xlarge Nills wood grips.
    I wouldn’t trade or sell either of my DE’s for anything. they will stay with me for life. Such a unique, powerful and yes useful firearm. Talk about a range attraction, talk about a intimidating, talk about a defensive round that will split your target in two, talk about the range of this round from a handgun. Just amazing! How one could call themselves a gun enthusiast and not own a DE .50 I do not know.
    Tip-Get reloading equipment and supplies, learn to reload. The ammo is easily available through auctions and some online stores, but the prices are just ridiculous of course. Currently .50 AE is about $2 a round, $3 for specialty defensive type rounds. I reload now for about .70c tops, when I go in on supplies with the group I shoot with it goes down to .50c a round. I also do .500 so reloading is a must if I wish to have money for retirement.

    BEST GUN EVER!

  54. avatarcorry says:

    really enjoyed that review I recently purchased eagle in 44 mag big bulky blast to shoot plan on hunting with it this season I love it so far

  55. avatarBill says:

    Have had a Deagle .50 AE for 6 months now, and after learning that it can’t be “limp-wristed”, haven’t had a single FTF. Actually this is my wife’s gun, and she is scary accurate with it. Yes, it is definitely all about the fun factor, because there is not much to be said for practicality. First time we brought it to the range, a guy from the group next to us came up with a 5 dollar bill, asking if he could shoot it. We let him shoot one shot for free, while his friends all filmed it with their smart phones. Definitely a range stopper!!!

  56. avatarDavid Chura says:

    A good reason I bought a desert eagle and probably the only good reason
    We take youngsters from our church, out camping in bear country and we also prospect
    A rifle just does not cut it as it will be left some where when it is needed
    Yes I bought the 44 mag, but since I know I can convert it to a 50 cal
    I will be buying the mod. when and if I can afford it, and only using that when needed.
    But the problem is I have never shot a handgun before, I’m 71 but as agile as anyone 1/2 my age.
    And sure my accuracy is improving every day, but sure could use some good advice
    I shoot at 45 feet and 2 out of 3 rounds I hit my mark, but one always seems to go astray by several inches. And seeing I live off a minimal income and if you have a 50 cal conversion and would like to help out by donating the conversion we sure would appreciate it
    We had one cougar attack but we lived through that OK, Just hope no youngster get hurt.
    They can be a handful at times.
    Question for the wise wilderness people.
    Where should you carry a knife on yourself in the wilderness?
    Ans. Between the knee and ankle below your strongest arm.
    Why
    Consider an attack by any animal from behind when they grab you
    Will you be able to access yours under your coat?

  57. avatarRaines says:

    My friends say Why do You need a DE.50? I say this is America and I don’t have to answer stuped questions on my own land.

    • avatarDavid Chura says:

      I have a desert eagle!
      Why?
      If you spend as much time as I do in the wilderness
      In Grizzly country
      What would you want to use to protect yourself, children family and friends
      And when you take youngsters into the wilderness on over night camp outs.
      Do you think you will put the rifle down some place, and there it is when you need it?
      Probably!
      And who’s child may have a problem? and who could not help when it was to late?

  58. avatardc sundt gny sgt usmc says:

    my daddy always says, son the more lead the more dead! yes, the 50ae is a beast! but then, of course, my barrett m82 50 cal bmg sniper rifle is too! the muzzle blast is horrendous, but hey, when that 725 grain armor piercing round arrives on target a mile n 1/4 away with the punch of a .44 mag @ point blank range, who in the hell is gonna survive that? even if I miss, but within 6-8 inches the shock wave will tear them apart. there is no substitute 4 firepower, just like cubic inches! look back, the colt 1847 walker was 4.5 lbs too! in 44, and with the huge powder capacity it could be argued that it is the 1st magnum. not once have I ever found anything from those texas rangers complain about weight. the 50ae does have a time and place, but how in the world can you dismiss the intimidation factor? dc sundt gny sgt usmc

  59. avatarborg says:

    I entered for a chance to win one and if I do I will keep it loaded with the best large game 50ae ammo that I can find so that when I travel I do not have to depend on luck to avoid dangerous big game such as bears or bulls or buffalo or other types that I fail to mention.

  60. avatarJay Dibble says:

    The 50AE seems a bit like the answer to a question never asked.
    ,
    Yes, I have fired one, it didn’t hurt or jam, It was fairly accurate. It seems kind of cool, but I own outboard motors that are lighter and more ergonomic.

    I own and reload for 44mag, it never jams, it’s only as heavy as it needs to be. It is a stainless Ruger SuperBlackhawk. In a good holster it won’t pull your pants off, and I paid $400 for the pistol, 50 rounds loaded for 44mag and 44SPL, 50 pieces each virgin brass, and a set of carbide dies.

    IMO, the .Desert Eagle is grossly over priced, along with it’s ammo. It’s also way to heavy, plus the ergonomics are abysmal. A curiousity rather than a reasonable tool, IMO.

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